The Center for Individual Rights filed suit today against Guam, the Guam Election Commission and seven named Guam officials for discrimination on the basis of race and ethnic heritage under Guamanian laws that prohibit individuals who are not “native inhabitants of Guam” from voting on a plebiscite concerning Guam’s future relationship to the United States.
In holding a “Chamorro-only” election (or any racially discriminatory election), Guam and its officials are acting in plain violation of the U.S. Constitution, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the 1950 Organic Act of Guam, and other federal and Guamanian laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race or ethnic heritage. The suit seeks to enjoin the further illegal use of racial or ethnic restrictions on who may vote in the plebiscite.
CIR is representing Arnold Davis, a longtime resident of Guam who was told he could not register for the referendum because he is not descended from a “native inhabitant.” Though Davis apprised the U.S. Department of Justice in 2009 that Guam’s discriminatory voting laws facially violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (among other statutes), the Department declined to investigate. The Department did not explain its refusal to enforce federal law in Guam, and Davis was forced to file today’s suit in order to protect his right to vote on the same terms as all other citizens of Guam, regardless of race.